Every month we will bring you the opinions, insights and never-before-known facts about key people from across Birmingham.
This month we put Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Chief Executive Paul Faulkner in the hotseat…
1. Why is Birmingham attracting such unprecedented levels of investment?
I think it is because it really great place to live and work. It offers a little bit of everything for people. It’s vibrant, it’s got great schools, a good cultural scene and is blessed by its geographical position – in that it’s not that far from anywhere.
We have always been known as the ‘Second City’ but anyone visiting right now can see what is going on here. More begets more, and Birmingham is blessed with scale and size but it’s not so big that it’s uniqueness gets lost.
2. What are the the three biggest challenges facing the city and the wider region?
Every place is faced by challenges, but two that I see a lot in Birmingham are the skills shortage and a lack of high quality housing. Both are fundamental to building on the growth we are seeing in the city. If we attract more businesses to the area, they have to have access to a skilled workforce. They also need to be able to show any relocating workers that they can build a life here and part of that involves high quality, affordable housing.
The third issue is really just having the city continuing to beat the drum. There is some brilliant work being done to promote Birmingham on the global stage, but we can’t rest on our laurels. Birmingham is a great place to live and work and we have to keep telling the rest of the world about it.
3. What impact will the West Midlands Combined Authority have?
We have a great opportunity with the Combined Authority – it has the potential to have a massive impact if led and managed well. The fortunate thing is that the people involved already – the Shadow Board – are really good talented people. If they get it right, the Combined Authority could give us a clear positioning and voice in Westminster. It is the key to having control over our own destiny.
4. How do you think the business community outside the region views Birmingham compared to five years ago?
Much more positively – and we are seeing evidence of that in the amount of inward investment that is coming here. I think the fact that the likes of Deutsche Bank, HSBC and HS2 Ltd are choosing to locate in Birmingham is a massive statement to those outside of the region. It shows that these big businesses have confidence and belief in what this part of the world can do for them.
5. What do you put the success of Birmingham’s start ups down to?
There is a really exciting, innovative vibe to the city at the moment. I’m a real believer in creating the environment that fits what you are looking to encourage. We have managed to create something here that suits and supports start-ups and other growing business. Now we need to sustain it, and again we can rest on our laurels it has to be focused on and nurtured.
My biggest word of caution here is on believing the hype. Yes, we have lots of amazing start-ups here but there are a lot of start-up failures. We can’t just help them get started and off they go. It needs to be about creating packages of support that can back them at every stage of growth. would be on start-up support.
6. Where do you see Birmingham in 2050?
There is an idea to light up Spaghetti Junction so it can be seen from Space. I’d like to do that – maybe we could even get Tim Peake to take a picture of the city from the Space Station.
7. What made you come to Birmingham?
I came for work. I relocated from New York to take up a role at Aston Villa.
8. What is the last song you listened to?
The Killers – All these things I have done.
9. Who is your ultimate business breakfast guest?
Richard Branson – only on proviso that I get to visit him on Necker Island.
10. What’s your favourite app at the moment?
The BBC Sport app.